CRESCO – Students from Crestwood and Riceville High Schools were able to experience a construction simulator at Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC) on Oct. 6.
This was a partnership between Equipment Operator Training, LLC (EOT), JB Holland Construction and NICC.
The simulator is a training tool for students and employees to operate heavy equipment, such as a dozer, excavator, motor grader and end loader, from the comfort of a trailer.
Roger Solberg, owner of EOT, explained the need for simulator training. “All of the contractors in Iowa and neighboring states need workers. This top-of-the-line simulator is a virtual reality way of teaching them how to run the equipment.”
The students sit in a chair on a moving platform, working the controls and watching on a screen, and also with virtual reality goggles, as they work with dirt.
It is hoped the simulator will spark the interest of high schoolers, who will go into the construction business. Solberg said, “The younger generation doesn’t know the technology needed in the construction field. Also, the guys my age are retiring, and we need the younger kids.”
It used to be that farm kids would work construction because they knew how to operate the equipment. Now there aren’t as many farm kids. And some youth have never even used a rider lawn mower.
Garrett Grabau, 2012 Crestwood graduate, added, “[JB Holland] is currently in the recruiting process. We’re looking for help.” The company uses the simulator in the winter and early spring to train new employees. It helps them to be more productive and more comfortable with the job.
Solberg said females are the best candidates. First of all, they are considered a minority in the industry, making it fairly easy for a girl or woman to get a job. They leave the cab of the equipment cleaner than guys, and they finish the job.
This is the second year NICC used the simulator. It traveled to different high schools, including Crestwood.
NICC-Cresco Center Director Jessica Reis said, “We’re excited to offer this experience again. NICC works hard to bring real-world career exposure to high school students through work-based learning opportunities. This partnership allows us to do that by getting students simulated ‘seat time’ in a very in-dmand occupation in our state.””
Earn and Learn Program
The simulator is also a way to introduce career opportunities to traditional and non-traditional students.
Reis explained, “The NICC Earn and Learn model addresses students’ economic needs while providing them with in-demand skills. The program targets recent high school graduates, high school stop outs and young adults looking to upskill or re-skill. Earn and Learn enables students to learn skills with little debt and while earning wages to support their families.”
Students who enroll in an Earn and Learn Career Pathway Certificate receive support from NICC to arrange interviews with business partners, and the students earn a wage while gaining valuable work-based learning experience. The best practice follows an apprenticeship model where students receive a wage for the time at the workplace and while in class. Most Earn and Learn students attend class 15 hours per week over the course of a 12 week certificate.
Earn and Learn helps employers hire workers now to fill their immediate needs while providing workers the skills they need to succeed in the long-term and secure a stable future.